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FAA lifts some restrictions on small aircraft

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Federal Aviation Administration lifted strict limits on the use of private aircraft Saturday -- allowing sightseeing tours and flight schools to resume business -- 11 days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

But aircraft operating under "visual flight rules" still are prohibited from flying within 25 nautical miles of New York and Washington, and are banned from large swaths of airspace around the nation's largest airports.

Aircraft are also banned from flying near professional and collegiate athletic events and other large, outdoor public gatherings.

And news reporting aircraft, traffic planes and helicopters, and airships and blimps operating under visual flight rules continue to be grounded.

Planes operated under visual flight rules -- rules that require only limited contact with air traffic controllers -- were grounded along with commercial aircraft in the hours immediately following the hijackings.

But while commercial airline flights were allowed to resume within two days of the incidents, authorities continued to restrict VFR operations. The most notable exception is Hawaii and Alaska; the FAA quickly lifted flight restrictions there because of those state's heavy reliance on aviation.

The notice lifting restriction was effective 7 a.m. ET Saturday.

Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., remains the only major airport in the country closed because of the September 11 attacks.

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